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The Assassin’s Blade Blu-ray Review

assassins-blade-bluray-coverU.S. Release

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 103 Mins.
  • Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 7, 2013
  • List Price: $29.98

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures are taken directly from the Blu-ray Discs and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.

The Film

[Rating:2.5/5]

Assassins-Blade-BD_03

Director Ma Jingle’s The Assassin’s Blade (Mo hup leung juk) is based on the Chinese legend Butterfly Lovers, which for Westerners, will bear many striking similarities to Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Being from the West myself and wholly unfamiliar with the original Chinese legend in anyway, which, like Shakespeare’s classic, has been told many times over in print, on stage, and on the screen, I can only take as my reference this offering from Ma. That being said, The Assassin’s Blade, which from the get go is terribly titled for Western audiences, is somewhat of a clumsy and melodramatic romantic tragedy that is beautifully filmed yet not so well cast, nor is it thoroughly fleshed out thematically.

Charlene Choi (The Sorcerer and the White Snake; Triple Tap) is cast in the role of Zhu Yanzhi, one of the star crossed lovers in The Assassin’s Blade. Disguised as a young man, Yanzhi is sent to the ancient order of Soul Ease Clan, which she must do to learn fighting skills in order to help protect her family. Yanzhi, however, believes she is just being granted a reprieve from her strict father to go out and see the world. There, the physically weak, yet charming and happy-go-lucky Yanzhi meets her mentor, “Big Brother” Shan Liang (Wu Chun). The two form an unusually strong bond and Liang, suspecting she is a woman, begins to succumb to her charms and falls in love with Yanzhi and the feeling is mutual. Back at Yanzhi’s home, however, trouble is brewing. Her family is being threatened, and her longtime childhood friend Brother Ma (Hu Ge; 1911) rescues her family from the threat. When he goes to retrieve Yanzhi from the Soul Ease Clan to bring her back to her family, he become jealous of the bond between her and Brother Liang, but it isn’t until returning home that the real trouble begins. Yanzhi’s father has rewarded Ma her hand in marriage for saving their lives. She is heartbroken, especially since she has already planned to marry Liang. This sets in motion a violent and tragic series of events that anyone familiar with Shakespeare can predict the outcome of with pinpoint accuracy.

This wuxia twist on what we in the West are familiar with as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, may very well have a long tradition of its own in Chinese legend. Watching this particular film, it’s not difficult to discern the Eastern differences that Butterfly Lovers involves. That two separate cultures would devise a tragic love story involving young, star crossed lovers in similar circumstances that ends in such similar circumstances is not difficult to believe. After all, the one thing that connects us all on this big blue globe is the human experience.

However, without much history to go on with the Chinese legend, I have to say that Ma’s story ring’s rather shallow; maybe it’s akin to a really bad version of the Bard’s work, of which there are plenty. Here, Charlene Choi, is beautiful and charming as ever, so it’s not difficult to believe that someone would be head over heels in love with her. Unfortunately, be it the direction from Ma or the script, her performance here feels too comedic in tone early on, so that when the film does take a turn and we finally reach the denouement, there’s a disconnect. Wu Chun completely lacks the gravitas to play the part of the tragic lover. In fact, the one actor who carries this film is Hu Ge as the obsessed, jealous villain.

Were it not for the undeniable visual beauty that Ma Jingle coaxes from the cameras – no doubt due to his background as a cinematographer – and the fact that the lens just loves Ms. Choi so much, The Assassin’s Blade would be a complete miss.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Assassins-Blade-BD_01

The Assassin’s Blade was shot on 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 500T 5218) film stock, Super 35 format. In this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement, the image has an obvious layer of grain that at times becomes a little gritty with the image itself tending slightly towards softness. Overall, however, it looks natural and film-like with robust color saturation, especially in the primary colors like reds that really pop.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Assassins-Blade-BD_02

The Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack is very subtle, and somewhat dry, to be frank. The surround channels are often rather quiet and panning is a bit stagnant, even during some of the fight sequences. The low frequency extension is very subtle, but adequate and highs are natural, without any hint of fatiguing harshness.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

Assassins-Blade-BD_04

Nothing but the original theatrical trailer (2.35:1; SD) is included alongside additional Well Go USA trailers.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]

Assassins-Blade-BD_05

The Chinese legend of the Butterfly Lovers is less than adeptly handled by Ma Jingle in this fantasy martial arts tragedy. While it has gorgeous imagery, the beautiful Charlene Choi, and a strong performance from actor Hu Ge, it fails to capture the tragic romance the story requires.

Additional Screen Captures

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The Assassin's Blade - Blu-ray Disc

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BestBuy.com:
The Assassin's Blade - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase The Assassin’s Blade on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

 

 

 

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